3 Mar 2008, 6:49pm
Saving Forests
by admin

Many Benefits to Biomass Plant

from the New Mexico Biomass Blog [here]

Elected Commissioner of Public Lands, Patrick Lyons, just published a powerful op-ed in New Mexico’s largest newspaper, the Albuquerque Journal, wherein he defends the Estancia Biomass Project and concludes that with this project “Everybody wins.” His article—Many Benefits to Biomass Plant—follows:

I applaud Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Secretary Joanna Prukop for granting a tax credit to Western Water and Power Production, which plans to build a $90 million, 35-megawatt biofuel plant on nearly 44,000 acres of state trust lands in Torrance and Socorro counties.

New Mexico’s legislative and executive leaders continue to drive an agenda that calls for utilities to meet renewable portfolio standards. Incentives, credits, exemptions, and mandates are passed, not only to attract new business to the state, but to make green energy sources affordable and readily available to New Mexico families and businesses.

The state Land Office is playing a pivotal role in the development of clean renewable energy supplies, including leasing trust lands for the state’s first large-scale biomass power plant.

In order to restore a natural equilibrium in a region that was once sparse woodlands and savannahs, we must reduce the ecological degradation created by the encroachment of piñon and juniper. Land analysis reveals that there are 250 to 520 trees per acre in the area now leased to Western Water and Power Production. According to staff biologists, the ideal number of trees per acre is 20.

Overgrown forests and rangeland are a direct threat to life and property, wildlife habitat and overall woodland health. For example, last November the Ojo Peak fire in the Manzano Mountains destroyed 7,500 acres and forced the evacuation of about 100 families. Decades of fire suppression, combined with years of drought and insect damage, created a tinderbox.

As a landowner from rural New Mexico, I believe that healthy lands and economic stability are directly related. Western Water and Power has guaranteed up to 150 jobs during the construction phase and 20 to 30 permanent full-time jobs over the lifetime of the facility. The average annual payroll has the potential to exceed over $1 million.

There has been some opposition to this project, however be assured that Western Water and Power Production is bound to adhere to a specific harvest plan that will enhance land management goals and meet all environmental, biological and archaeological standards. Any harvesting of trees will follow New Mexico Forest Restoration Principles.

The Commissioner of Public Lands and the state Land Office manage millions of acres of surface and mineral estate held in trust to help support public schools, universities, hospitals, public buildings, the penitentiary and water projects— 21 institutions and programs in all.

The recipients of revenue generated by the biomass project include public schools, University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Military Institute, New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Miners’ Colfax Medical Center, and the state penitentiary.

The Western Water and Power biofuel project will create a viable renewable energy source, improve rangeland, create jobs and economic development opportunities, and generate millions of dollars for education. Everybody wins.

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